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Ellis and Levvy

The Relationship of Marie Ellis and Frances Levvy

Marie Ellis

Marie Ellis

Ellis and Clarke[1] portray the relationship of Marie Ellis and Frances Levvy in respect of the Bands of Mercy as one of uneasy competition and friction. While this is possible, as they were both very active and determined women, there are few references to sources given to justify this view and the degree of friction, on the evidence presented, seems overstated. In those examples that are given the so-called attitude of Levvy to events referred to are mere speculation. The WSPCA policy seems to have been to allow Levvy to nurture her groups as she wished and for Ellis to do the same for her groups. It was a pragmatic approach to governance which would avoid undue friction. Some of the so-called friction suggested by Ellis and Clarke arises from their misunderstanding of the role of the APS vis-a-vis the WSPCA  and the secretary John Sidney and the connection of the RSPCA to Levvy’s Bands of Mercy.

The formation of the WSPCA was not because, as Ellis and Clarke suggest that, ‘the APS probably concerned at the lack of co-ordination between their organisation and the  Band of Mercy movement, decided to bring the work of these two energetic ladies , Frances Levvy and Marie Ellis, under the Society’s umbrella.’[2] The APS made no claim to be responsible for the formation of the WSPA and the evidence is that Levvy, frustrated at the unwillingness of the APS to affiliate her Bands of Mercy took the initiative, along with a group of ladies including Marie Ellis, to hold a meeting on December 16, 1886 to form the WSPA. [3] The presence of John Sidney, a paid employee of the APS but honorary with the WSPCA, was most likely due to the invitation of the women. The objects of the society were to take under its auspices the bands of mercy organised in various parts of the colony ‘subject to the provision, that the bands retain their individual freedom of direction and responsibility in all matters relating to local proceedings.’[4]

In what was to be the practice of the WSPA, at its formational meeting Levvy reported on her groups and Ellis reported on her Newcastle groups. Levvy had begun her groups two years before Ellis and had affiliated them with RSPCA in London using their cards and medals. Ellis, unware it would appear of Levvy’s work,[5] formed her ‘’Newcastle Merciful Brigade or Band of Mercy’[6] with Lady Carrington as the Patron and with a membership card she designed. When she formally affiliated her groups with WSPCA on August 17, 1887 she also presented the card she had hitherto used. Although there was already an official card recognised by the WSPCA for Bands of Mercy, the one issued by the English RSPCA but with an Australian crest upon it, Ellis’ card was also recognised as suitable for use by ‘young members’.[7] There is no evidence that her card was reluctantly accepted.

It is implied by Ellis and Clarke that it was Ellis’ proposal that the WSPCA start a magazine[8] but regretfully no source is quoted to justify this implication. The only extant report of the meeting says ‘A proposal was submitted to the committee for starting a monthly paper, to be called the Band of Mercy Magazine of New South Wales which would contain anecdotes of animal life, recipes for diseases of animals , and information of an attractive nature for the young’.[9] It is speculation that the discussion on the production of a magazine was postponed due to divided opinions[10] on the matter as the newspaper report of the meeting says of the deferral that ‘as this was a rather large undertaking, it was postponed unit next meeting for further consideration’.[11] By July, Levvy reported the first issue of the ‘Band of Mercy Magazine’ was ready.[12] Ellis late in November 1887 produced her own “Band of Mercy Advocate” and why she did so is unknown but this action does seem to indicate on the part of Marie some degree of unhappiness or at least a desire to maintain a degree of independence for her Newcastle groups. In October of 1887 Levvy had written to the APS offering to supply copies of the magazine for distribution, the committee agreed and took 100 copies.[13] In December it was reported by the APS that Ellis was offering 100 copies of her magazine to be distributed with the other papers of the APS.[14] This could be interpreted as a bit of a competition but if so it is a competition in which Levvy acts first and then is followed by Ellis rather than the other way around. By March 1889 Levvy, who never did attend many WSPC meetings resigned from the Committee[15] she and her husband moved to Sydney later that year.[16]

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[1] J. Ellis and J. Clarke, Belated Applause – a Biography of Marie Kramer Ellis (Lane Cove: WJ Ellis, 1886). This is a very comprehensive work on Ellis’ very interesting, remarkable and energetic life both in music and philanthropy. Regretfully it does not always quote its sources for statements it makes and it tends to under rate Levvy’s contribution to the Band of Mercy movement.

[2]Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 120.

[3] SMH, December 21, 1886, 7.

[4] SMH, December 21, 1886, 7.

[5] Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 120

[6] The first reference to Ellis’ groups is found in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate February 24, 1886, 2.

[7] SMH, August 23, 1887, 4. Ellis and Clark imply a reluctance on the part of the WSPA. Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 128.

[8] Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 128

[9] SMH, March 19, 1887, 14.

[10] Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 128

[11] SMH, March 19, 1887, 14.

[12] SMH, July 23, 1887, 11. This also means that Ellis and Clarke’s claim that Ellis was the first woman editor of a newspaper was incorrect as Levvy preceded her by  four months. Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 148.

[13] SMH, October 8, 1887, 13.

[14] SMH, December 10, 1887, 13. Ellis and Clarke point out that Ellis’ magazine was not under the sponsorship of the Women’s Branch of the RSPCA but the parent body, the APS, mis-states the relationship of the WSPA and the APS. It is unclear as to what authority Ellis had to publish it with this claim.

[15] Ellis and Clarke are incorrect to say that Marie kept away from the monthly meetings of the WSPC meetings after the resignation of John Sidney. Sidney resigned in 1891 two years after Marie’s resignation, Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 153;  SMH, March 30, 1889, 8.

[16] Ellis and Clarke, Belated Applause, 144.

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